Motlanthe’s remarks hark back to an ANC before Zuma
JUST occasionally one glimpses, behind the dull eyes and zombie-like shuffle of President Jacob Zuma’s disengaged administration, the values that sustained the ANC in the struggle years.
It’s a briefly cheering reminder that all is not yet lost.
This week Kgalema Motlanthe, in an uncommonly frank Business Day interview, skewered the movement to which he has devoted his life. The ANC’s tripartite alliance with the SACP and Cosatu was dead, he declared, and to believe otherwise was delusional.
The ANC blithely ignored its own constitution, as did Cosatu when it expelled its largest affiliate, Numsa. The SACP and Cosatu had lost their independence and been subsumed into a single ANC entity, while the traditionally autonomous ANC Youth League was now also under tight control.
These are the headline-grabbing remarks. But it is Motlanthe’s analysis of what is causing the growing crisis that is more important.
The project of creating a nonracial, united democratic SA is faltering because of an absence of honest dialogue and because the ANC is paying only “lip service to these noble ideals”.
An example was the way in which the presence of blacks in the DA is derided. “Is it the expectation that non racialism is only going to happen through the ANC?”
It was then not surprising that minorities began thinking that protections and rights “are going to be quickly whittled away... Which is why the Afrikaner is drawing back into their laager”.
A united SA could be built only if the ANC engaged with the differing views of others “as people who truly represent whatever views they represent”. If, instead of positing superior arguments, it just continued to push legislation through “because we have the numbers”, minority alienation was inevitable.
“The constitution enjoins us to address the accumulated disabilities and heal those wounds caused by the past. But it says we should do it together, because it can’t be done by a section of the South African people. You have to mobilise the broadest cross section.”
Motlanthe then defends the corporate sector, a favourite scapegoat of the Zuma government. “It is in the interest of government to ensure that the environment is conducive for business to thrive and to create more jobs so that there are less people dependent on social grants and charity, otherwise you will have social upheavals.
“We have a crisis and people who understand that are the people in Treasury. Every week they have to go and borrow money from US asset managers… And so they know and deal with 23-year-old and 24-year-old asset managers who have no regard for sentiment.”
This is the voice of the old, preZuma, ANC. The sentiments are remarkable only because they are in such jarring contrast with the rancorous and divisive public discourse of today, and because they come from a former ANC president of SA, albeit only as a seven-month standin after former president Thabo Mbeki was recalled.
But Motlanthe’s assessments rocked the government. The alliance Rottweilers were on to him in a flash, with the ANCYL labelling him a counter-revolutionary and a liar.
Unusually placatory and careful was the ANC’s own response. It described Motlanthe as a “voice of reason always on the forefront of raising pertinent and thought-provoking questions… on internal challenges that if unattended could materialise as future problems”.
The importance of Motlanthe’s remarks is that they were unambiguously provocative and public. That he broke the disciplined cadre’s code of silence about “internal challenges” is a sign of his despair about what he describes as “a crisis”, but the Zuma ANC assesses merely as possible “future problems”.
Until Motlanthe spoke out, the only high-ranking defenders of “old ANC” values have been former members of Mbeki’s cabinet, easily dismissed as bearing grudges.
Motlanthe, however, is
not easily dismissed.
He was specifically brought into the Mbeki cabinet after Polokwane by the pro-Zuma faction to protect their interests.
In July 2008 Motlanthe was reluctantly drafted as minister without portfolio, in September of that year he became democratic SA’s third president, and by May of 2009 he had surrendered the job to Zuma.
Motlanthe has shown often enough in his career that he is not personally ambitious.
So, despite paranoid fears within the Zuma govrenment that he might be a stalking horse for some kind of anti- ANC movement, that is unlikely.
But his remarks may, however, be a sign of some kind of anti-Zuma movement beginning to stir. Follow WSM on Twitter